Typography is the visual portion of language. Type itself—the individual symbols—are used as the building blocks to communicate a message. If the type is constructed in an aesthetically pleasing and legible fashion we refer to it as “fine typography.”
Having said that, let’s face it. Once you click on your type menu, things can get pretty confusing. Where did all those font choices come from? Why are they even there. And who uses all those non-English fonts, anyway? It’s time to dig in and clear up some things.
That’s one reason I began my online courses, which are called “Typography for Everyone: Demystifying Type.” Most people use computers and encounter type all the time. Many of them have no specialized training and their font menu is a mystifying hodgepodge to them. It’s kind of like giving a full mechanic’s tool box too a 15-year old and saying “replace this doorknob.” The array of tools is seemingly vast and very confusing. Telling him to just grab a screwdriver and get started may not be comprehended in the same way it would to, even, a novice mechanic. Type basics is a step that is usually skipped or glossed over when the average user begins the personal computer journey. “Learn-as-you-go” can be frustrating and usually inefficient, which is why most Driver Ed programs start in the classroom.
Ever see one of those “Read Me First” documents with the instructions for a new appliance, or tool? A “Read Me First” file, containing a few simple rules and guidelines, ought to be inserted with your desktop publishing/layout program. As with the film we saw in the Driver Ed class, following these rules might help to prevent typographic accidents.
This may sound like a lot of work just to type out a memo or something equally mundane, but like it or not:
If you use words “professionally,” you are already a typographer. You may be a reluctant typographer. You may be an unskilled typographer. But every time you put words on a page, you’ve made typography happen. —Matthew Butterick in Butterick’s Practical Typography
Your goal is not necessarily to create something award-winning every time, but to make you feel confident that any time you sit in front of a keyboard, you will be able to create both legible and readable documents that are attractive and communicate your information clearly.
At some point, I will post some rules (also known as “guidelines,” for people who don’t like rules) Briefly stated, they are: